noun: the quality of being strong enough to withstand adverse conditions
What does it take to train in Taekwondo? Typically people say that it’s a strong body, but a strong mind is just as important. Mental toughness and physical toughness are two sides of a scale, and individuals who have specific strengths in each can find success. Finding a balance between the two is where the real results happen during training.
While there is a level at which everyone can find success in Taekwondo training, no matter what their physical capabilities are, there is a threshold of physical toughness that’s required. What this means is that each individual must push themselves to their physical limits. Finding out what you’re capable of is part of this process and most people find that their bodies are capable of much more than they think is possible. It’s a common refrain for students to feel stunned at the things that they can do physically with practice good instruction.
Going back up that definition at the top of the page, toughness is not about how big muscles are but rather about how far you can go in adverse conditions. Adverse conditions are different for everyone, depending on the level at which you’re beginning and the support that you have.
Strength is not the main component of Taekwondo. If anything, it’s agility, coordination and precision that are the heart of being a high-achiever in the physical sense. That physical ability is the way that we move through patterns, sparring, jumping and everything else we do in Taekwondo. There’s so much possibility in these bodies that we walk around in. So while you might not be able to deadlift two hundred pounds, you can still reach a high level of physical success that meets your potential.
Physical toughness is a skill that you can develop just like any other. Start small, pushing the body incrementally, and those small gains will improve your level of physical toughness.
The real trick is that in order to get to physical success, you have to be mentally tough. Mental toughness drives the physical body. For instance, if you believe in your ability to do one more pushup, then you’ll find that more than likely you’re physically able to do it! Or if you think that you can break that board, then you’re more likely to be able to break it.
World class endurance athletes respond to stress in a different way than others do. In fact their brainwaves actually look more like people who are meditating when faced with an intense situation rather than with increased stress patterns. They have mental toughness!
Just like physical toughness, mental toughness is a skill that can be developed. How? First by starting to accept small discomforts in life. It might be something as simple as forcing yourself to park in the back of the carpark when you go to the shops, or making a small change in your diet like giving up those favorite snack foods. The great thing is that these skills transfer, so once you learn to make yourself do one thing, you can then transfer that skill to other things, like your Taekwondo training!
These two skills really do go hand in hand. In fact, really they are the same skill! Developing toughness creates growth in Taekwondo and in life.